60-Second Mind

Portion-Size Label Influences Ingestion Intake

People ate less of a portion of food if it was labeled "double-size" rather than "regular." Karen Hopkin reports

The mayor of New York famously tried to ban super-sized sodas. But instead of legislating a drink’s volume, maybe we should change its name. Because a new study shows that the words we use to describe portion size affect how much we actually consume. The findings are in the journal Health Economics. [David R. Just And Brian Wansink, One Man's Tall Is Another Man's Small: How The Framing Of Portion Size Influences Food Choice]

As portion sizes at many restaurants grow larger, so do our waistlines. Of course, no one says we have to finish that three-quarter pound burger or chug an entire Big Gulp. But what determines when we lay down the fork and push away from the table?

To find out, researchers led by Brian Wansink of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab served up some spaghetti. Some volunteers received a portion labeled “regular,” others got a dish described as “double size.” Although both plates contained the same amount of pasta, people ate more when they thought their serving size was normal. Participants who thought they’d gotten the piggy-sized portion left 10 times more food on their plates.

So if a big beverage were called, say, Double the Size of your Stomach," maybe we’d think twice about draining every last drop.

—Karen Hopkin

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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